Thursday 30 May 2024

Let's See some Smaller Sights

 Let us take a break from cricket, at which I seem to be demonstrably hopeless at the moment, and let us turn our eyes downwards again, to what lives among the wildflowers and helps pollinates them with a flit, a hop and buzz while only a few of us notice. 

It seems to be shield bug season at the moment on campus, with dock bugs, box bugs and gorse bugs scuttling about everywhere amidst the brambles and dogwood, far below the screeches of the buzzards as they are harassed by crows. 

The weather has been damp but tolerable, for both myself and the insects, and we have both been out and about. The latter far more colourful than myself. 


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 30.05.24

Monday 27 May 2024

Herding Cats through the Rain

 Sunday dawned wet and grey, and I awoke to a chorus of messages on my phone asking me if the game was going ahead. 

The guys at the Legion said it was dry, and yes we were going ahead.

As the rain here continued to hose down my team-mates didn't believe me, quoting the forecast of thunderstorms, lightning and other meteorological disasters. But I had already got to the ground and indeed found it reasonably dry and not raining, and relayed this information back.

Players then agreed to set off, with much harrumphing and questioning of my sanity. 

I negotiated with the Legion skipper that we would bat first, in a 30 over game based on the fact that it was near the one pm start time and our team consisted of entirely two players; myself and our second team all rounder, heir to a formidable local cricketing dynasty of three generations. 

Probably not enough to make match of it, to be honest.

But the others arrived, in various moods, and we got the game underway, with just 9 players. A good day was not on the cards. 

As it turned out, we only really needed three. 

The game began with heavy black clouds skirting the ground, with thunder rumbling from both the east and west, with our two youngest players opening the batting. The rain stayed away, and they stayed out there. 

When I went out to umpire after ten overs they will still there. They were still there at drinks. And they were still there after 23 overs, when they raised a hundred partnership after one of the young lads had slammed a four, and then a six over my head into the sightscreen, bringing up his own 50 in the process. Remarkable. 

It looked like we were going to bat the whole innings without losing a wicket, but alas both the young lads fell soon after, but they had done an amazing job, raising the run rate too after a steady start. 

We went on to post a competitive total of 143 for 4, with me umpiring for twenty overs despite a rain shower at the end of the innings; we just played through it. 

"Tell me that wasn't worth it" I said to the others as we left the field. 

We went out to field overlooked by the very splendid Sir Julian Cahn pavilion, a reminder that many many years ago this rich cricket benefactor had hosted games against Australia at this very ground. Us plebs aren't allowed to use it though, we are stuck in the municipal changing rooms. 

The Legion started at a brisk pace, but lost a couple of early wickets. I thought I would come on to bowl and take wickets, but it was an utter confidence shredding disaster. I got some sharp turn, but it was all too short and I got flogged. The harder I tried the worse it got, the ball would just not come out right, not helped by the fact I was bowling about a metre behind the crease for some reason. Never felt comfortable.

I was whipped off after three overs and banished to the boundary, although today I saw a bit more action in the field and didn't mess up once for a change. I felt absolutely terrible, and ready to give up cricket.

For about half an hour. 

As it happened my replacement, the young all rounder who opened the batting, came onto bowl some flighty turning legspin, and took five wickets, much to everyone's delight. There were catches behind, and stumpings for one of our other juniors, who is normally the first team opening bowler. Six dismissals for him.

We won by about thirty runs in the end, although I was still very grumpy and not seeing the bigger picture, i.e. a fantastic day out for our young players. On a day people didn't seem to want to play. 


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 27.05.24

Sunday 26 May 2024

Bogside Cricket

 Saturday saw us take the relatively short hop up the road to play Lowdham seconds, with our third team as of yet the only one of our league sides to have won a match in league cricket this season. 

Hopes were high, with a decent team taking to the field, more or less, and with decent weather expected I was expecting a productive day on a personal level, having bowled well last weekend and also in the nets on Thursday. 

Forlorn expectations, as usual.

As is custom with our third team captain - yes, still the same one as when I started blogging these games ten or so years ago - we bowled first. Events started slowly, as I watched from my standard round the corner ball never goes there fielding position, which given the small ground was practically on the boundary. Our debutant opening bowler, bowling in black trainers and matching shades, soon knocked over the stumps however, followed shortly by our Keele Captain bowling from the other end, 

There then followed a partnership by a couple of the Lowdham batters which consisted entirely of hacking through the line and getting lucky, with the ball going in the air plenty of times and either not going to hand, or being dropped. 

A couple went into the trees, and another went over a hedge onto the road. 

At 108 for 2 at drinks after 20 overs, things were looking rather grim, but we stuck at it, catches started being taken, stumps were shattered and our mood improved tremendously. 

While all this was going on, I was sailing from backward square leg to fine leg and back again like a reasonably un-majestic old schooner. The nautical metaphor is not misplaced, for Lowdham suffers from flooding as badly as we do, and parts of the outfield were like a swamp. One rare time that the ball headed my way, I took off after it and suddenly found myself nearly ankle deep in Lowdham's finest mud and had to watch as the ball gently bumped over the boundary. 

My cricket career summed up effortlessly, while I had to watch things like our opening bat take an absolute screamer in the deep, although he later told me that if he hadn't it would have knocked his teeth out. 

So, after thirty overs, it turned out that we had bowled them out for 154, with Keele Captain taking four wickets and the Man of Blidworth three. A fine effort after drinks. 

Told at tea time I could be promoted in the batting order as I hadn't bowled - up to number nine - I then set off to umpire forever as usual, and got to watch a fine opening stand of 52. Rather too closely at one point, as I only just got out of the way of a blistering straight drive that would have put me in hospital if it had hit me. 

So, we were going well albeit against bowling that was straight if nothing else, but we were going rather too slowly. It took the arrival of our number three to get us back on track with some big six hitting, although the bowler concerned was hardly Dennis Lillee, being about four foot high. 

So we progressed well for a time, but then there was another tumble of wickets, one of which involved a fairly sustained bit of bat and glove throwing - I sympathised - and resulted in me having to pad up with about 40 still needed in 6 overs or so. 

The terrifying site of me in my pads, bat in hand, next to the boundary rope was the key point in our victory, as it forced our captain into going on the attack and getting the runs quick to save the team from me in person. And that's exactly what he did, and that what got us over the line with a couple of overs to spare for a fine victory. 

One I had no chance of spoiling. 


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 26.05.24

Friday 24 May 2024

The Island Refuge

 Today I will show you "The Island", a refuge of wildflowers in a rather unpromising location.

A mass of ox eye daisy, with corncockle, cornflower, scabious and poppies thrown in, it is full of bees of all kids - today's special find was a buffish mining bee. 

The air quality isn't so good though, as you might gather from a traffic island surrounded by two dual carriageways.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 24.05.24

Tuesday 21 May 2024

When Baseballers Play Cricket

 Sunday's game at our home ground was an unscheduled match arranged by the chairman, who in a parallel universe is the coach of Nottingham University's baseball team, a team that have supplied us with some integral parts of our team over the years. 

Indeed for this match, they were bringing a Luxembourg T20 international player, and another player who used to be on the books at Sussex. Better than any of us, at any rate. Although we were assured there were a few guys who had never played cricket before. 

Obviously, being a baseball team and all that, actual cricket kit was optional, and some of the players had moustaches and mullets that would have been entirely at home at Yankee stadium. 

We batted first, which meant that on this gloriously nice day, I got to go out and umpire in my wonky old straw hat for the first half of the innings. The former Sussex player, who seemed to rejoice in the name of "Bart Simpson", was evidently a very handy and rather quick bowler, which I'm sure our first team captain who was hoping for some time in the middle was not exactly thrilled about, especially after the first ball reared and hit him on the shoulder. 

Luckily at the other end, one of our former players was serving up twelve ball overs by somehow bowling more wides and no balls than even I could ever manage, and the ones that were vaguely straight were being hammered to the boundary by our second team captain.

The first wicket fell when the first team captain jammed one out to cover, before my Sunday co-captain came on to strike a couple of lusty blows before getting out to someone who looked like they'd never bowled before in their lives. 

There were worries of an embarassing collapse drifting in on the freshening breeze, but we found an unlikely saviour in the form of one of our young lads, who produced a number of hefty thwacks mixed in with some sensible batting. I even scored ten whole runs myself, with couple of boundaries slapped behind square in the manner of a malfunctioning helicopter trying to take off.

We closed on 143, a decent score in the circumstances. They may not have been cricketers, but the standard of fielding and throwing is way higher in baseball than cricket, and it showed. They held their catches, and they all had throwing arms like missile launchers. 

At the tea interval, an opportunity for the baseballers to crack open a few beers, I was told I'd be opening the bowling as "their opening bats are rubbish". Another staggering vote of confidence, but hey, I just love bowling. 

It actually went ok, I castled their opener third ball with an absolute ripper - a straight one that he missed in other words - and took one for four in three overs before being banished as we wanted everyone to get a bowl if possible. It worked too, pretty much everyone took a wicket including our debutant flattening the stumps of the T20 international.

However the baseballers had a very good bat who scored 50 and kept them in the game, but wickets kept falling as the captain skillfully brought himself on to bowl at guys who had never batted before, as well as taking an excellent catch. 

We won the game by seven runs, a really fun afternoon capped off with a couple of beers as the sun sank lower in the sky. 


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 21.05.24

Sunday 19 May 2024

This Time, Eleven Beats Ten

 With no great hopes or expectations - I lie, there are always dreams of hero-dom in the back of my mind - I found myself drafted into our third team for a trip to Thrumpton, over on the Leicestershire border.

On paper, we looked quite a strong third eleven, but sadly, that paper was old school parchment. Seven or eight years ago, we would indeed have been a strong team, but we were all younger then, playing two divisions lower and in much better practice. There was also only ten of us. 

Still, it was great to be back playing with these chaps. 

I'd never played at Thrumpton, but the reputation of its teas preceded it. Generally agreed to be the best in the league, the main tactical consideration was not the state of the wicket, or the atmospherics, but rather to bowl first so we could put our feet up at half time and stuff ourselves royally.

Thus there were major celebrations when we heard from the skipper that we were indeed fielding first. 

Thrumpton's ground has a beautifully bucolic setting, which I had spent most of my pre-game warm up by photographing. Surrounded by buttercup meadows, free ranging fresian cows and overflown by a number of keening buzzards, it was a glorious place to play cricket. For the less aesthetically minded, the presence of a bar was carefully noted. 

Off we went to bowl and field, or in my case, field only as I thought at the time. The Thrumpton bats made a good start against our opening bowlers, the captain of Keele University second team, and a refugee from Blidworth from the "here be dragons" Bassetlaw championship. 

They played some good shots, but it was all a bit hacky and sloggy and on a bigger ground might even have cost them - Thrumpton has a pretty small outfield. But they cracked along at 6 an over until The Man from Blidworth had one of the openers caught by the captain, before our guest spinner from Upton had the other caught in the deep. Another captain's catch got rid of the number 3, before another bat missed a ball from the off spinner by miles and was plumb lbw. 

At this point, 80 for 4, our captain thought we might skittle them for under 120, and golly we did try, but the lower middle order had other ideas. While I was fielding energetically in my usual tactically selected - by the captain - positions where I didn't actually see much of the ball, the heavily bearded but very friendly Thrumpton captain and a junior player about the height of the stumps started crashing the ball around, with a tree next to the cow field getting some rought treatment a couple of times. 

It was in this context that I was invited to bowl the last few overs by the skipper, with the friendly encouragement that I would be shot if I bowled badly, or words to that effect. As it happened, I didn't, although my off spin wasn't getting much turn. I even got a wicket with the last ball of the innings, a delivery the Thrumpton captain somehow managed to loop into our keeper's hands via the back of his bat. 

Maybe I should be told I will be shot more often. Although I'd rather I wasn't. 

Tea was, as predicated, sumptious, with chicken goujons, chips, pizza and enough sandwiches to feed the Titanic presented to our team who fell upon it like starving jackals. There was even ice cream and jelly for afters. 

Time then, to bat. Well, not for me. I was expecting to bat at eleven even with ten men in the team. We were facing a fairly stiff chase of 175 in 40 overs, and it turned out fairly quickly that this was going to be tough. 

The young Thrumpton seam bowlers may have been rather short, but they weren't short on pace and the ability to hit the stumps, which we had rather failed to do. Only our tall opener, supported by his magic back brace, stood firm with his usual stoic front foot play with the occasional elegant whack. 

The other end was a festival of stump upheaval. 

The captain went in, and batting better than I've seen for a long time, took it to the bowlers with some powerful strokeplay. But at 84-7, he found himself with me walking out to join him. 

"What are you doing out here, you are rubbish, get the guy from Keele out here" he encouraged me, while frantically waving at said man from Keele. 

He was then out next ball to a stunning catch. 

The first ball I received, from yet another stump high fast bowler whacked me hard on the foot and I was happy to take the leg bye to face the rather gentler left arm spin at the other end. Banjaxed the first ball for four, then missed the next five. 

The Keele captain had now com in, and recognising true incompetence when he saw it, took charge of the situation to hog the strike, while playing some excellent shots while I watched with a smattering of envy. He could easily have got 50, but sadly, I let him down by getting bowled round my legs for 5. But between us, we had passed the 100 mark, and got us the batting point.

To go with the extra bowling point I earned. 

All in all, a lovely day. 


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 19.05.24

Friday 17 May 2024

At Last, a Brimstone

 I've commented before that this wettest of springs has not been kind to the early spring butterflies that spend the winters hibernating as imagos. I've barely seen a comma or small tortoiseshell, only the occasional peacock or red admiral, and brimstones, normally one of my harbringers of spring, have barely been up at all.

I've seen an occasional luminous lemon yellow male or white female fluttering by at a distance, and certainly nowhere near mobile phone camera range.

They normally don't let you get within five metres of them anyway. 

Imagine my surprise then, when at work, I came across a beautiful male calmly feeding off rock cranesbill, and entirely happy to let me get close range photographs. I'm guessing that it was still warming up and getting its energy together. 

So here it is, in its lovely vivid glory, just for you!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 17.05.24

Monday 13 May 2024

Ten Beats Eleven

 After yet another week of trying to flog a team together to take on Wellow Exiles, we took to the field on a glorious Sunday with only ten players, one of whom was myself, a player for whom on some days the term "cricketer" is doing a lot of heavy lifting. 

I allowed my co-captain to run the show today, and as ever there was the pre-match panic of running around like startled cats to find balls, scorebooks and stumps, followed by an inept attempt to put up a pergola that was only solved by the arrival of our resident doctor of mechanical engineering. 

Our captain lost the toss as usual, sentencing us to thirty-five overs of fielding under a broiling sun. But as it happened our opening bowler, nowadays a first team bowler, wiped out the Exile's top order with three wickets in five balls. 

His reward, as is so often the case in friendlies, was being taken out of the attack to stop the game lasting only an hour. Hindsight eh?

He was replaced by the young bowler who had made such an impression the previous Sunday against Upton, and he promptly bowled a beautiful spell of left arm bowling, cleaning up an Exiles batter with an unplayable ball before getting another wicket with a full toss - my usual speciality. 

At 23 for 5, things looked rather grim for the Exiles. But they had a very good bat, whom last year at battered me all round the ground at Edwinstowe, and whom I was fated to bowl at again. 

I had him dropped at slip first ball, and immediately knew it was not going to be my day. I bowled another beauty to the other batsman, but that was it. Could not find a full length, always about a foot short, and this resulted in a barrage of runs. I had my field set right, so not everything went for four, but they ran two everytime on the big outfield. 

Final indignity was the captain, acting as wicket keeper, dropping the easiest catch in the history of cricket off this gun bat, who ended up making 96 not out out of Exiles' 153 for 5. 

I felt rubbish, as usual, especially after winter nets had gone so well. 

But, I was still part of a team I want to do well, and I take joy in the performances of others. Not that I had time to rest and contemplate this while watching the resident whitethroat warbler flying in and out of the bramble bush, but had to go out there and umpire for an hour and half. Luckily, our openers made a great start and I had nothinng to do other than wave my arms extravagantly to signal a boundary. They out on about 50 before one of them slapped a ball straight to square leg, and the other, having made an excellent 40, was plumb lbw.

We now had two youngsters at the wicket, and the required run rate was just starting to climb a little bit. 

No problem to them, they batted sensibly before opening up a little bit to keep us in touch with the game. The young bowler decided he was going to attack, and struck a very handy 24. This is why you need a competitive total to chase in these games, so younger players can have a good challenge and learn something at the same time. 

The fall of his wicket resulted in a father and son combination at the wicket, and with those two out there, we never looked like losing. It was a good seven wicket win, after a great game on a beautiful day, and it was well rounded off with beers as the sun sank lower towards the horizon. 

Two out of two.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 13.05.24

Sunday 12 May 2024

The Glorious Aurora

 Friday night, as I'm sure all my readers know, saw what I suspect was the greatest auroral display seen in this country in my lifetime, with only the event of March 1989 coming close. 

Early in the evening, I'd noticed reports on social media of the aurora being visible in Europe, but hadn't seen any reports from the UK. However, when I left my home at about 1130pm in order to nip across the road to the pub, I noticed what looked like blue clouds directly overhead.

On a hunch, I used the night mode on my phone to take a shot; with the greater light gathering mode, vivid blue arcs were revealed. 

Walking further round the road, a bright band was seen extending across the sky, a photo of this revealed a lurid violet sunset effect stretching across the sky. This was definitely the aurora. Social feeds from the UK revealed picture after picture, most more spectacular than mine. 

It didn't look too good to the naked eye amidst the streetlights, but the photos revealed a lot more. I did a bit of outreach in the pub garden, and soon more photos were being taken. 

I hope you got the chance to see it!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 12.05.24

Monday 6 May 2024

A Winning Start at Upton

 Finally, after terrible weather and cancelled games, the Sunday season, and thus my season, got underway with what always used to be our traditional curtain raiser against our very good friends from Upton cricket club, on their beautiful small ground up on the hill from the village.

It was a lovely sunny day, to the extent that horrible milk bottle legs could be revealed to the world. 

Arriving early in order to make our new young players welcome, I had time to explore the ground, and the beautiful orchard behind it into which many a ball has been hit. The apple trees are in full blossom, and the bees from the hives at one end were getting busy. 

I didn't make the mistake of going to have a closer look at the hives, as I got chased off by an angry bee when I tried that before. 

Upton batted first, as we thought we were a bit light on batting and wanted to make a day of it. As it turned out, Upton struggled on a tricky slow wicket, and although the boundaries were short, the outfield was slow so runs were hard to come by, especially as our bowling was so good. Events started slowly, but when we brought two of our debutants, one a talented youngster, another a guy who had been talked into coming back to cricket by the chairman but hadn't got round to getting some spikes yet so was bowling in Sketchers.

Within about twenty minutes, they had taken five wickets between them, the young lad taking a stinging catch as well as taking their first senior wickets ever. 

Time for a tactical bowling change. Surely bringing myself on would even the game up a bit, as I fully expected to get hit into the nearby fields a few times. 

Well, as it turned out, that only happened once. I bowled well enough, although my two wickets were as usual taken with my worst two deliveries, and the field I had set myself after observations made at net practice, turned out to be completely wrong. I bowled a little two short at times, but I did get a bit of turn and beat the batters a few times. 

Meanwhile, at the other end, another young debutant was proving to be impossible to hit.

The decision was then "taken by myself" and not at all by the chairman who was acting as a usurper skipper on the grounds of my tactical incompetence, to end the nonsense by bringing on the proper off spinner, who promptly wiped out the tail enders to bowl out Upton for 89.

Talking over an excellent tea, we thought this would be no easy chase in these conditions, and indeed the chairman, reluctantly opening the batting, was wiped out first ball, and other wickets fell rapidly until we were 17 for 6. Luckily, the second team captain and also our esteemed groundsman, and our senior resident geographer on two hour sleep, combined to see us home with a brilliant partnership of 70 odd, one with big hitting - poor old tree at one end took a fearful thwack, and stern defence from the other. 

Good job, as the batters waiting to go in, myself included, did not feel terribly confident of making any runs at all. 

In all a lovely day, capped with a pub visit, which went on all night for some!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 06.05.24